Dear GovLoop: How Do I Get a Presidential Appointment?

Welcome to Dear GovLoop, an occasional column where members of the GovLoop staff take your burning questions and give you advice on how to figure out answers to thorny questions and situations. We’ll be doling out advice on everything from how to advance in your government career to how to ease into telework to how to get along with a difficult coworker. Got a question you want us to answer? Shoot a note to [email protected] with your name, question, and any relevant information. All questions will be kept anonymous!

In today’s column, we’re answering this question: How do I get a presidential appointment?

Dear GovLoop: With the new administration set to take office, I have been thinking a lot about presidential appointments. I think I am interested in pursuing a presidential appointed position but I am not sure how to go about it. What kind of appointments are available? Once I choose a position I would be interested in, how do I go about getting the appointment? —Signed, Unsure About Appointments

Dear Unsure About Appointments: Presidential appointments are tricky but not impossible. The thing that makes them tricky is that there is a very large volume of people applying for very few available spots.

Before we dive into how to obtain one of these spots, we have to discuss the differences among appointments. The vast majority of appointments are approved by the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. These are non-career posts that are largely driven by the agency themselves. Additionally, these positions are not consistent amongst agencies. At one agency, a general counsel position may be a political position, while at another it is a career post. So if you have your heart set on a particular position or agency, do a little digging to figure out if what you’re interested in is a career or political position.

The higher ranking political appointments are often made exclusively by the White House and must be confirmed by the senate. These positions include high court judges and agency heads. Recently, efforts have been made to reduce the number of senate confirmed presidential appointments because of the gridlock that often plagues the confirmation process. Additionally, these positions are much more difficult to get than more run of the mill appointments.

Now that you may have an idea of what appointment is right for you, let’s talk about how you can get the job. There are five main tips that can help you score a presidential nomination:

  1. You gotta work: A lot of appointees find themselves appointed because they worked full-time on the president’s campaign. Working extensively on a campaign shows your commitment to winning the ticket and the Administration’s overall success. This may be hard if you are already a public servant because of restrictions on the capacity you can work on campaigns. However, you can make up for it in other areas that will catch the administration’s eye.
  1. Money runs the world: Whether it’s fundraising or personal contributions, adding significant funding to a campaign speaks volumes once the candidate takes office. If you are looking for an in, extensive fundraising for a candidate is a good way to do it. Again, there are some restrictions on how federal govies can fundraise for political campaigns, but you can always show support by making personal campaign contributions.
  1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know: Take a minute and go through your LinkedIn contacts. If you’re like me you probably don’t have an influential political contact ready to endorse you, but you probably do have someone who knows someone of influence. Additionally, you can always start attending rallies and campaign events to meet new people who may have the connections you need to get the position. Start networking now and make sure you can get a credible endorsement or two. These hold a lot of weight when it comes time to choose appointees.
  1. But it’s also what you know: As with any job, you have to be qualified for the position you are appointed to. You also have to make sure the right people know about your expertise and accomplishments. Feel like you may not be qualified yet? Build and tailor your resume towards the appointment you are interested in and you’ll be ready the next time a vacant position catches your eye!
  1. Make a good impression: In order to be considered for an appointment, you must turn in your application and resume online. Be specific about what opportunities you are interested in and make sure it is clear why you and your experiences are best suited for those positions. Additionally, make use of any opportunities you have to work inside the administration. It’s never too late to get your foot in the door and you have a much better chance of nailing an appointment from the inside.

Ready to take the plunge? Check out the presidential appointment application here. Additionally, you can find a complete list of Obama Administration nominations and appointments here. Finally, if you have any thoughts or words of wisdom that we didn’t cover, leave us a comment!

Interested in having Dear GovLoop answer your workplace or government question? Drop us a line at [email protected].

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